In The News: Allergy Warning

When is a bargain not a bargain? Last week the FDA approved over-the-counter sales of Claritin, the nation's top-selling allergy drug. That could send the price plummeting from more than $60 for a month's prescription to less than $30 for the OTC version. For folks without insurance--or without a prescription-drug plan--that's welcome news. But for people with coverage, the pills will likely cost more than they did when a monthly copay of $10 or $15 covered the Rx. Worse, some insurance providers are threatening to require copays as high as $50 for the remaining prescription antihistamines--Clarinex, Allegra and Zyrtec. The goal, of course, is to encourage more patients to switch to Claritin, putting the financial burden on individuals instead of insurance providers.

Still, there is hope for consumers: Claritin's patent will expire on Dec. 19, meaning that cheaper generic versions are on their way. Then perhaps allergy sufferers will truly breathe more easily.